There’s a weight to this afternoon. It sags, the heavy mid-point of the summer holidays. Beneath us are the bones of dinosaurs; above us, the groaning bulk of a jumbo jet. We sit with grass-damp jeans in your back yard and watch it sink slow over the estate, thumbnails green from plucking blades free from the earth. Planes rarely fly over our town. This one hangs so low we can see it clearly, with its blue-striped tail and poppyseed windows.
“It’s going to crash,” you tell me. “Definitely. It’ll be on the news and everything.”
We wait. You’re listening for the impact of ground meeting metal, eyes closed in anticipation. I tell myself to do the same. Any moment now, the future will press itself into our present and we’ll want to remember where we were and what we saw The Day The Plane Went Down. I rehearse my answers. I was beside you, our knees only a blade of grass apart. I saw how pale your eyelashes were and how, as you closed your eyes, they laced themselves together like interlocking fingers. Here is the church and here is the steeple. I saw your fingers, stained with the permanent marker you used yesterday to give me tattoos: a shooting star on my back, your name like hieroglyphs down my leg. They linger on my skin, barely smeared from last night’s bathwater. I savour the thought of them lasting until we go back to school.
It occurs to me that I’ve never seen you so still. Those fingers of yours, always moving, plucking, drawing, always full of the next game you want us to play to pass the time. I’ve never seen them pause like this. I wonder if I’ll ever witness such a rare phenomenon again.
The impact should have happened by now, but you haven’t given up waiting so I won’t either. I want you to have your moment for as long as it will hold, until one of us moves and the anticipation snaps into disappointment and this summer’s day sinks away like every other. If the future you’re waiting for isn’t coming, I want this present to last for as long as possible before it folds into the past. And so I stay still, barely breathing, even though all I want to do is to thread your grassy, ink-stained fingers through mine and find out what happens next.
First published in Milk Candy Review on 21 February 2019.
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